updated 11:25 pm EST, Wed February 2, 2011
Verizon iPhone 4 reviews show much better calls
Reviews for the Verizon iPhone 4 began filtering in Wednesday night just ahead of the official pre-orders. The wide consensus from the New York Times, Engadget, TechCrunch and the Wall Street Journal suggests that the switch to Verizon's network has led to a much more reliable experience for calls than AT&T. The experience was likened to being "almost heaven" by the NYT's Pogue and, in trouble spots where AT&T 3G is often unusable by iPhones, can be a dramatic improvement in the experience of placing a call.
"I was able to place a call from my office [in San Francisco] -- something which was impossible for me to do a week prior," TC's MG Siegler said. "Second, I made it through the entire 45-minutes without the call being dropped once. Again, this was impossible a week prior."
Calls would occasionally drop on Verizon, but at a much lower frequency. The WSJ's Walt Mossberg noted that he dropped three calls over nine days but on AT&T would drop as many in one day. Those three were also to an AT&T iPhone user in San Francisco and may have been AT&T's fault. None could completely replicate the "death grip" as they could on AT&T and supported beliefs that a weak external signal was more important than the grip.
Most of the limitations were inherent to CDMA cellular technology rather than anything of Apple's or Verizon's doing. EVDO Revision A 3G, which peaks at 3.1Mbps, is by its nature significantly slower than AT&T's 7.2Mbps. Speeds could sometime be half those on AT&T's network. Engadget noted that Verizon's network was much more consistent, however, and could be superior for mapping or other tasks where a constant stream was better than AT&T's fast but inconsistent bursts. The inability to use EVDO while on a phone call was often considered insignificant but, as expected, was more of a concern when using the personal hotspot: an incoming phone call drops the inbound data for everyone until the call resumes.
Battery life was considered exceptional and could last a full day, even with heavy use. The hotspot's need to have both 3G and Wi-Fi active at all times cuts the runtime down significantly, to about four hours.
In conducting his review, Pogue may have gleaned more information than expected about future iPhone plans. He claimed that AT&T's hotspot plan might reach the iPhone on its February 13 debut, although AT&T has so far declined to confirm any plans beyond Android. The columnist also claimed that Verizon's capped data plans would follow AT&T's and peak at 2GB for $25. Both may have been speculation, but he was also given strong hints from an Apple spokesperson that the company would have a CDMA-capable iPhone 5 during the summer, which rumors have suggested could be a dual-mode edition with both CDMA and GSM.
"Let's put it this way: We're not stupid," the Apple representative said when asked if Verizon users would be served with an iPhone 5 on time.